Federal Courts, Empty Benches:The Wednesday Vacancy Count 8/3/2011

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August 3, 2011

By Joshua Meyer-Gutbrod

For a District by District break down, see: Federal Court Vacancy Warning System

The current vacancy warning level for the U.S. Federal courts is set at Yellow and is unchanged from last week. Major changes include the offsetting retirement of a federal district court judge and the confirmation of additional judge as well as a vacancy opening up at the appellate level. The appellate vacancy raises the vacancy warning level at the appellate level from Blue to Yellow for the first time since the start of the count. Approximately 10.3% of the total Article III posts are currently left unfilled. The vacancy information for the various court levels is as follows:

Key:
(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)
0%0%-10%
10%-25%25%-40%
More than 40%
Supreme Court 0% or no vacancies
Appeals Courts 10.1% or 18 vacancies
District Courts 10.4% or 71 vacancies

There are currently 9 Supreme Court posts, 179 appellate court posts and 680 district court posts for a total of 868 Article III judges. This count includes four temporary posts, one each in the Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Southern District of Florida and the Central District of California. There are currently 60 pending appointments in the Senate leaving 33% of the vacant posts without an appointment. So far this year there have been 31 confirmations.

New confirmations

District of Colorado

On August 2, 2011 Congress confirmed R. Brooke Jackson to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. Jackson was originally appointed by Barack Obama on September 29, 2010. He currently serves as the Chief Judge of the Colorado First Judicial District. U.S. Senator Michael Bennett (D. CO) commented on the confirmation, stating, “Judge Jackson will make a tremendous addition to Colorado’s U.S. District Court. Colorado has been without a full bench for far too long, in part because Washington can’t get its act together and approve qualified nominees. It’s my hope that Judge Jackson’s addition to the bench will ensure Colorado’s district court can operate in a smooth, timely and efficient manner.”[1] Jackson fills the only vacancy on the court, filling the seat vacated by Phillip Figa upon his death in 2008. The confirmation lowers the vacancy warning level in the court from Yellow to Green.

New vacancies

District of Puerto Rico

On July 31, 2011 Daniel Dominguez, a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, assumed senior status after serving 17 years on the bench. Dominguez was originally appointed by Bill Clinton and received his confirmation on Semptember 24, 1994. His transition will open up the only vacancy on the seven-judge court, raising the vacancy warning level from Green to Yellow.

Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

On July 31, 2011 Arthur Gajarsa, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit assumed senior status after serving on the court for 14 years. Gajarsa was appointed on July 31, 1997 by Bill Clinton. His transition to senior status opens up the second vacancy on the court, raising the vacancy warning level from Blue to Yellow.

New Appointments

July 28

On July 28, 2011 Barack Obama submitted two nominations for district court posts and one for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Obama commented on the two district court nominations, telling the press, “I am honored to put forward these highly qualified candidates for the federal bench. They will be distinguished public servants and valuable additions to the United States District Court.”[2]

Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

On July 28, 2011 Barack Obama nominated Evan Wallach to fill the position vacated by Arthur Gajarsa on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.[3] Obama commented on Wallach's nomination, stating "“Judge Wallach has distinguished himself throughout his legal career in both the public and private sectors. He possesses a keen intellect and a commitment to fairness and integrity that will serve him well as a judge on the Federal Circuit.”[4] Wallach currently serves as a judge on the United States Court of International Trade, and has held that post since 1995. An Army veteran who served during the vietnam war, Wallach earned his bachelors at the University of Arizona and his J.D. at University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. Wallach will fill one of two vacancies for the appellate court with one other pending appointment to the court.

Southern District of New York

On the same day, Barack Obama nominated Ronnie Abrams to fill the vacancy created in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York upon the retirement of Lewis Kaplan.[3] Abrams currently serves as Special Counsel for Pro Bono at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. She attended Cornell University for her B.A. in 1990 and Yale Law for her J.D. in 1993.[2] Abrams would fill one of the six remaining posts for the large New York court. There are three other pending appointments for the court and there have been two confirmations to the court in as many weeks.

District of Columbia

Barack Obama nominated Rudolph Contreras to fill the vacancy on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia created by the retirement of Ricardo Urbina.[3] Contreras currently serves as an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia but has also served in the District of Delaware. Contreras earned his J.D. the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and his B.S. at Florida State University.[2] If confirmed, he will fill the only vacancy on the court.

August 2

On August 2, 2011 Obama appointed one more to the appellate level and one more to the district court level.

District of Nevada

On August 2, 2011 Barack Obama nominated Miranda Du to fill the position vacated by Roger Hunt on the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.[5] Obama commented on the nomination stating, “Miranda Du will be an esteemed addition to the Federal bench for the people of Nevada. I am grateful for her dedication to public service.”[6] Du is currently a partner at the firm McDonald Carano Wilson LLP, in Reno, Nevada. She received her B.A. from the University of California at Davis and her J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law.[6] If confirmed, Du will fill the only vacancy on the court.

Eleventh Circuit

Barack Obama also nominated Adalberto Jordan to a post on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to fill the vacancy left by Susan Black on her retirement. [5] Obama commented on the nomination stating, “Judge Adalberto José Jordánwill bring an unwavering commitment to fairness and judicial integrity to the federal bench. His impressive legal career is a testament to the kind of thoughtful and diligent judge he will be on the Eleventh Circuit. I am honored to nominate him today.”[7] Jordan currently serves as a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida and was originally appointed to this post in 1999 by Bill Clinton. His elevation would fill one of two vacancies on the appellate court and would create an additional vacancy on the district court level, adding to the three vacancies the Southern District of Florida is already confronting.

Notable news

Recent deaths

On July 29, 2011 senior federal judge Matthew Perry passed away after serving on the federal bench for the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina for 32 years. Perry was first nominated to the court in 1979 by Jimmy Carter and later assumed senior status in 1995. Columbia SC Mayor Steve Benjamin commented on Perry's death, stating “He was a shining example of unflinching courage and leadership. Simply put, he was a giant and this world will be a lesser place without him.”[8]

See also

References